Which Movies Should Become the Next Broadway Musicals?
Welcome to Geek Out/Freak Out, where theatre fans get super enthusiastic about things.
This week, Stages editor Mark Blankenship geeks out (via Gchat) with Greg Reiner, Executive Director of Classic Stage Company.
Today’s Topic: Which movies should become the next Broadway musicals?
Mark Blankenship: Hi Greg! I’m so glad you could join me for this geeky conversation. For the folks at home who weren’t around the last time we talked about it, would you mind telling me what you said about musical adaptations? It was something about the titles you WANT to see adapted that haven’t been adapted YET.
Greg Reiner: Well, my thought arose from two things I was stewing on: (1) bafflement at certain movies that ARE getting made into musicals and (2) the vast trove of movies out there that actually could be amazing as musicals. Of course, that’s according largely to MY taste, which, coming from non-profit theatre, may not be as commercially viable as one would need.
Mark: Color me intrigued. Which movies leap to mind?
Greg: How about the wonderful Mrs. Henderson Presents, which stars Judi Dench as a theatre owner who becomes notorious for staging all-nude revues? As I was watching, I kept thinking it was crying out for a musical adaptation.
Mark: Ooh, yes! First of all, that musical would have an amazing lead role for an older star. I always love getting to see a seasoned actress remind us that she’s still got the goods.
Greg: Yes! But let’s just get Dame Judi to do it! She’s still acting on the stage, at least in London, and we know she can sing.
Mark: Do you realize how many people would have meltdowns if Judi Dench starred in a stage version of Mrs. Henderson Presents? You’d have to line Shubert Alley with EMTs.
Greg: But seriously, that movie takes place in a theatre, with larger than life stakes, with the war as a backdrop, and it just seems like a natural that those characters would break into song
Mark: Plus, it has a great mixture of gentle charm and serious emotion.
Greg: Personally, I think there are two kinds of projects that work well for musical adaptations. On the more serious side, there’s a film that has such high stakes and heightened characters that you want to see them burst into song. On the campier side, you’ve got something like, say, Death Becomes Her that just naturally wants to be musicalized.
Mark: I like those distinctions. But if may add a codicil: It seems like a movie that suits category one also needs to be… how to put this? It needs to be about human beings. Like, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction has high stakes and heightened characters, but it’s also so self-consciously over the top that it could only work as a “category-two musical.”
Greg: Right, it needs to be human scale and yet larger than life, in the way that something like Hairspray was.
Mark: Oh, and a solid example of your second category… I thought Evil Dead was a GREAT musical. That movie is campy, and it made for a delicious, campy show. Not everyone agrees with me, of course, but almost 10 years later, I can still sing the song about the haunted cabin in the woods, and I still remember the moment when the stuffed moose head on the wall came to life and sang a number.
Greg: I didn’t see that, but I will take your word for it!
Mark: On the “as-yet-unmade” front, I would give anything to see a musical made from A League of Their Own, and in fact, a friend and I once mapped out the numbers for Acts I and II. Those human-sized characters in extraordinary circumstances are just destined to be on stage, if you ask me.
Greg: I’m not sure that would occur to me as something that would work on stage. I mean, you can’t actually have them hitting a ball and playing the game on stage, so what would it be? Just people stepping out and singing about baseball?
Mark: I disagree! If Damn Yankees can work, then why not this? If a Bull Durham musical can play in Atlanta this fall, then why not a similar story with tons of great roles for women? And besides, at its core A League of Their Own isn’t really about baseball. It’s about the creation of a family in an unusual place.
Greg: For me, anything that is too rooted in reality doesn’t translate well to the musical stage. I think it was Susan Stroman who said that whenever she sees overstuffed couches being loaded into the scenery bay for a new musical, she knows it’s going to be in trouble
Mark: Well, when I start raising money for A League of Their Own: A Homerun of a Show!, I will not ask you to be an above-the-line producer. But I’m sure our friendship can survive this wrenching disagreement. Meanwhile… what else would you like to see adapted?
Greg: Some other shows I’d love to see: Edward Scissorhands. Practical Magic. Mrs. Doubtfire. Moulin Rouge! (How has this not happened?)
Mark: Baz Luhrmann openly admits that musical theatre is one of his biggest inspirations, and Strictly Ballroom is happening. So Moulin Rouge! seems like it’s only a few years away, at most. I mean… it’s already got an exclamation point in the title, for heaven’s sake.
Greg: And he did already do La Boheme on Broadway, which felt very similar. On another note, how about taking an older property and putting a new twist on it? Like, say, Call Me Madame with Nathan Lane in the Ethel Merman role? I can’t believe Encores! hasn’t already done that.
Mark: I’d see that! Oh… and how about this… did you see the movie Hugo? About the kid who lives in a clock?
Greg: Hugo would be great! Perfect example of what I am talking about.
Mark: Right? It’s very much about the creation of the movies, but I feel like it could be translated to stage without much effort.
Greg: It could be a great vehicle for Julie Taymor!
Mark: Yes! I also like your idea of adapting Edward Scissorhands. Tim Burton’s aesthetic totally suits the musical theatre.
Greg: And while we’re at it, how about The Nightmare Before Christmas?
Mark: Get Basil Twist on the phone!
Greg: OMG. Let’s not publish this and just go produce it ourselves. We could make millions!!
Now it’s your turn! Which movies do YOU think should be turned into Broadway musicals? Geek out with us in the comments!